Measles, a potentially deadly virus, is knocking at Mississippi's back door according to a state health official. As MPB's Desare Frazier reports, officials are calling the situation a public health emergency.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs is urging Mississippians with children 12 months or older who haven't gotten their measles vaccinations to get them right away. Shelby County, Tennessee is in the midst of a measles outbreak. Six cases have been reported since April. Now the Mississippi Department of Health has quarantined four north Mississippi children in their homes. Dobbs says they were exposed to measles in Tennessee and hadn't been vaccinated.
"You know it can be extremely serious. Measles is extremely contagious. It's pretty much the most contagious virus that we have right now. It spreads through the air and once someone coughs it in the air it'll float in the air for several hours and people can just walk into a room where a contagious measles case used to be and catch it," said Dobbs.
Dobbs says there are no confirmed measles cases, but the highly contagious viral infection can lead to serious complications and even death. The symptoms include:cough, runny nose, watery eyes, fever and a rash. Mississippi has one of the most successful child immunization programs in the nation. They begin vaccinating children at 12 months. Kids under a year old are too young. Children and adults with weakened immune systems and those who have been vaccinated are most at risk.
"This is a real public health type of emergency and certainly if we have some local transmission events in the North Mississippi area, we may have to actually pull some children out of school that are not protected with vaccines," said Dobbs.
Dr. Thomas Dobbs says it takes a couple of weeks for the measles vaccine to take effect.